Her Husband

Her Husband

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: November 2000

Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

One of the twentieth century’s greatest literary artists and winner of the Nobel prize in 1934, Luigi Pirandello wrote the novel Her Husband in 1911, before he produced any of the well-known plays with which his name is most often associated today. Her Husband—translated here for the first time into English—is a profoundly entertaining work, by turns funny, bitingly satirical, and tinged with anguish. As important as any of the other works in Pirandello’s oeuvre, it portrays the complexities of male/female relations in the context of a newly emerging, small but vocal Italian feminist movement.
Evoking in vivid detail the literary world in Rome at the turn of the century, Her Husband tells the story of Silvia Roncella, a talented young female writer, and her husband Giustino Boggiolo. The novel opens with their arrival in Rome after having left their provincial southern Italian hometown following the success of Silvia’s first novel, the rather humorously titled House of Dwarves. As his wife’s self-appointed (and self-important) promoter, protector, counselor, and manager, Giustino becomes the primary target of Pirandello’s satire. But the couple’s relationship—and their dual career—is also complicated by a lively supporting cast of characters, including literary bohemians with avant-garde pretensions and would-be aristocratic esthetes who are all too aware of the newly acquired power of journalists and the publishing establishment to make or break their careers. Having based many of the characters—including Silvia and Giustino—on actual literary acquaintances of his, Pirandello reacted to the novel’s controversial reception by not allowing it to be reprinted after the first printing sold out. Not until after his death were copies again made available in Italy.
Readers will find Her Husband eerily evocative of the present in myriad ways—not the least of which is contemporary society’s ongoing transformation wrought by the changing roles of men and women, wives and husbands.


Her Husband is by turns funny, bitingly satirical, and tinged with anguish.” — Translation Review

“[T]here are mordant dissections, striking psychological observations, individual flashes of brilliance, and above all, the promise of things and themes to come in his later plays. . . . [A]s a portrait of a great artist in progress torward the full maturity of his vision [Her Husband] is an indispensable read for Pirandello lovers.” — Desmond Ryan , Philadelphia Inquirer

“King and Frese Witt have done a superior job of rendering Pirandello’s vivacious prose into flowing contemporary American English.” — F. A. Bassanese , Choice

“The last of Pirandello’s seven novels to be translated into English, Her Husband is an invigorating backstage satire that, along with its melodramatic delights, reveals some of the careerist fears and sexual fantasies on the underside of the writer’s mask. . . . Her Husband provides serious entertainment, from its amusing lampoon of the increasingly ‘feminized’ Italian literary scene at the turn of the century to the suggestive dualities swirling around its battle of the sexes, a sardonic family romance where both the father and mother give birth to monsters.” — Bill Marx , WBUR Theater Reviews Newsletter

“This is a complex tale: Pirandello mocks his own characters, while at the same time revealing their emotional turmoil so sensitively that the reader is still moved to sympathy for their plight.” — Bonnie Johnston , Booklist

“This successful translation provides English readers access to a compelling work from one of the masters of twentieth-century literature.” — Alan Tinkler , Review of Contemporary Fiction

“Translated into English for the first time, Her Husband was written in 1911 before any of the major dramas on which Pirandello’s international reputation is based were produced. . . . The translators are to be commended on including an ‘Afterword’ that is both informative and enlightening. References to Roman history, the rise of literacy in Italy and the accomplishments of the Giolitti government provide an insight into the novel’s complexities.” — International Theatre Institute

“[Pirandello’s] real interest seems to lie in exploring the relationship between femininity and creativity, an interest that takes his artistry far beyond his own time and his own prejudices to chart new territory. His intricate and subtle explorations of the mind of the woman writer, of the relations between creation and procreation, and the contradictions inherent in literature as art and literature as business, speak to the preoccupation of the twenty-first century as they did to the first years of the 1900s.” — from the Afterword

“Pirandello’s fiction has been overshadowed in America by his epoch-making plays, and one of his seven extraordinary novels has never even been published in English. Till now, that is, thanks to excellent translators, Martha King and Mary Ann Frese Witt. American readers will have great fun with Her Husband.” — Eric Bentley


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Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936), Italian dramatist, novelist, short story and essay writer, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934. Pirandello shares the stage with Ibsen and Brecht as one of the most influential modern dramatists of the early twentieth century. A prolific writer, he began his literary career as a novelist and writer of short stories, the best known of which is the novel The Late Mattia Pascal, published in 1904. Pirandello’s plays (nearly forty of them) won him an international reputation, with Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) providing his most enduring contribution to modern European theater. Her Husband (1911) is Pirandello’s fifth novel.

Martha King is the translator of numerous books. Mary Ann Frese Witt is Professor of French and Italian at North Carolina State University.

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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2600-7
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